I just love to see a post on deer stalking forums regarding calibres and makes of rifle for deer and what’s best and why. Robert, my underkeeper, and I like a good laugh at them because it’s always a case of sit back and watch the action. It’s the same with scopes, just throw the hand grenade into the conversation and then sit back and watch it go off.
The simple truth is that almost any new rifle off the shelf nowadays will shoot better than the person pulling the trigger, providing that it likes the ammunition that you have bought for it. Some rifles of a quality make, bought second hand, will shoot better than a new cheaper rifle, but you have to be careful because you can’t know for certain the wear and tear that the rifle has had internally due to poor cleaning and maintenance. A gunsmith can inspect a rifle with a bore camera however and give you a better idea.
If you are on a limited budget then a new rifle of lesser quality is probably the way to go, or a good quality second hand rifle that has been inspected by a competent rifle smith.
What is however not up for argument is the quality of the scope that you put on top of it. You have to go for the best you can afford. The difference between cheap scopes and top of the range ones needs to be seen to be believed. The big 3, if you like are Swarovski, Schmidt and Bender and Ziess and extending just a little further, Leupold and Nightforce. These scopes won’t appear much different to a cheap airgun scope in day light, except for build quality, but the main difference except for the first class after sales service is the clarity in poor light and this is what you are paying for. So many deer are lost simply because they cannot be seen clearly at first and last light. Another thing to remember is that with better quality scopes, the resale value remains higher and so you can trade in and up when you are ready.
Another point to remember is scope mounts, and for what they appear to be, which is basically two metal rings, there is a lot of difference in quality and price. Again go for the best you can, there is little point having a decent scope if you can’t get it to hold still on the rifle.
As far as what calibre to pick, that will be a combination of the legal requirement and your own ability together with the species of deer you plan to stalk in the main. This will be up to you but confidence in a given calibre is key, and this leads nicely onto the next paragraph.
Now having said all this, there is one more thing to remember, and this cannot be ignored, and that is faith in the rifle/scope/calibre combination. I am convinced that with rifle shooting 95% of success is down to confidence it your set up and your own ability accounts for the final 5%. Without this and of course technique, you have nothing. It’s almost got to be an arrogance. In your mind you cannot miss, the target is dead before you ever squeeze the trigger and the even that is done without thought but as a reaction and a total concentration on hitting the target. To achieve this you must put in the practice time and be sure that your firearm will not let you down.
So in short, nobody can tell you what calibre is best for you, try a few calibres on the range, see what you feel comfortable with. Look through some good quality glass, new or second hand, in poor light, see the difference for yourself and attach it to the rifle with good quality mounts. Once you have done that try a few brands of bullets and bullet weights and see what your set up “likes”.
And at this point it’s time to practice.